Grit


Doing a quick online search brings up many synonyms for the word ‘grit’. Words like courage, courageousness, bravery, backbone, spirit, strength of character, strength of will, toughness, determination, stamina, doggedness, tenacity, perseverance and endurance.

All powerful words describing what Angela Duckworth captures in one word – grit. In her latest book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, the Duckworth brings our attention to this psychological trait. Grit has two components, she says: passion and perseverance. Passion means having enduring interest in the job you are doing. Perseverance means being persistent and never giving up.

Angela shows anyone striving to succeed - be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people - that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence. She discusses how effort is often ignored, outshone by ‘talent'.

She goes on to say that the highly accomplished are paragons of perseverance. For most people, there is no realistic expectation of ever catching up to their ambitions. In their own eyes, they are never good enough. These highly accomplished are the opposite of complacent.

They are satisfied being unsatisfied. Chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance, and it is the chase - as much as the achievement - that is gratifying to them. Even if it is boring, or frustrating, or even painful, they don't dream of giving up. Their passion is enduring.


The three most powerful points I took from the book were;

  1. Interest. Passion begins with enjoying what you do. Remember that interests must be triggered again and again and again. Find ways to make that happen. And have patience. The development of interests takes time.

  2. The capacity to practice. One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday.

  3. Purpose. What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters.

Culture, Hard work and Talent.

Whether we realize it or not, the culture in which we live, and with which we identify, powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being. At its core, a culture is defined by the shared norms and values of a group of people.

The bottom line on culture and grit is: If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you’re a leader, and you want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture

Effort is twice as valuable as talent.

It comes out in the book that several nation-wide surveys in the United States have asked the question, Which quality is more important for success: talent or hard work? Around 66% of respondents favoured hard work, grit and determination. Hard work was the quality they claimed to look for when searching for a prospective employee.

Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort. Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them. The effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive. It seems that when anyone accomplishes a feat worth writing about, we rush to anoint that individual as extraordinarily “talented.” If we overemphasize talent, we underemphasize everything else. If we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking.

Duckworth states that you can look at it like an equation: To determine your level of skill, you take your talent in a given field and multiply it by the amount of effort you put in. So, Talent × Effort = Skill.

But when it comes to getting results, you have to put that skill back into the equation. And, once again, the results are going to depend on the amount of effort you put in. So, this time, Skill × Effort = Achievement.

You can also look at it in terms of athletics. Even if you’re naturally talented, you still have to put in the effort to practice and develop your skill. If you want to win Olympic gold, for instance, it’s almost completely pure effort that’s going to get you there. The remarkable power of effort is often discovered by people who fight to overcome a lack of talent.

Different Levels of Goals.

Conventional wisdom says that we should do what we love. But, more importantly, you need to stay committed to doing what you love. Giving yourself small daily chores is a good way to keep up your levels of effort. Low-level goals like these can serve as a path to meeting your goals.

Many people will set high-level goals, like becoming a doctor, lawyer, or a professional athlete. Having a life goal like this is inspirational, but it can also lead you into forgetting to set all the small goals you need to accomplish in order to make it happen.

An example from the book mentions, in order to become a doctor, there are a series of low-level goals that should first be set, like studying and passing your pre-med exams. Once this happens, there are more small goals, like getting to your classes on time and making sure you get good grades. Without incorporating these small goals into your everyday life, the big goal will remain frustratingly out of reach. However, having a larger dream and vision in place is important for providing meaning and inspiration in your day-to-day life.

After all, sticking to a disciplined regime is a whole lot easier when you have a clear picture of what you’re working toward. And it also helps when these passions are straightforward.

Below is a simple diagram showing the hierarchy of your goals.

At the bottom of this hierarchy are our most concrete and specific goals; the tasks we have on our short-term to-do list. At 7 am I want to start my day by drinking warm lemon water to get me going. These low-level goals exist merely as means to ends. We want to accomplish them only because they get us something else we want.

In contrast, the higher the goal in this hierarchy, the more abstract, general, and important it is. The higher the goal, the more it’s an end in itself, and the less it’s merely a means to an end. The top-level goal is not a means to any other end. It is, instead, an end in itself. Think of this top-level goal as a compass that gives direction and meaning to all the goals below it.

Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. It is so interesting and important that it makes up a great deal of your waking activity. In very gritty people, most mid-level and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that ultimate goal.

Practice makes Perfect.

Do you ever have trouble getting motivated during your workday? If so, you’re not alone. A 2014 Gallup poll revealed that two-thirds of US workers don’t feel motivated by their job, with most people finding their job boring. In fact, only 13 percent of workers said they feel engaged with their work. These statistics highlight a simple fact. No matter how much grit you have, if you want to stay motivated, it’s important to do something that interests you.

People who practice or show grit always have more success at mastering a new skill than people who put in no effort at all. That said, cognitive psychologist Anders Ericsson has discovered that the key to this success is intelligent practice.

An example in the book notes considering athletics. Successful runners don’t practice with vague goals in mind; they are precise and keep a close eye on every detail of their runs, including keeping track of how their body is responding and the distance they’re covering. Their goals are also precise; they attempt to run 100 meters further than last time, to reach a specific speed by the end of the month or to ease the tension in their shoulders during practice. The benefits of deliberate practice are threefold: it’ll get you off autopilot, help you avoid repetition and bring great results.

Find your True Calling.

There’s no getting around the fact that sometimes we have to do things we don’t like. And chances are we’ve all procrastinated and postponed doing a task that seemed like a hassle. The best way to avoid procrastination is to get motivated by finding the purpose in your work. Motivation can be easy to find if you’re doing something you love. But realizing how your work contributes to the well-being of others can be just as motivating.

If you haven’t found your true calling yet, don’t worry. It can take time and you might even find it while you’re doing something else.

Lead By Example.

If you want to bring forth grit in your child, first ask how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals. Then ask yourself how likely it is that your approach to parenting encourages your child to emulate you. If the answer to the first question is “a great deal,” and your answer to the second is “very likely,” you’re already parenting for grit.

Unfortunately, children get exposed to all sorts of bad advice, especially when they’re told that they’ll never be smart enough and that hard work is a waste of time. This can lead to people never realizing their full potential, so to prevent this from happening it’s important to recognize and encourage hard work instead of just rewarding talent.

Rather than crushing someone’s hopes, remind children that skill can be achieved through hard work and that grit and determination bring rewards. Unfortunately, schools routinely reward children for talent rather than hard work, and sadly, it’s all too common for a parent, as well, to think that bad grades reflect a lack of intelligence rather than a lack of effort. This can instil a belief in the child that he’s stupid and that he should give up.

If the parents and teachers simply tell children that they need to work harder, they will get motivated and achieve better results.

What I took from it.

It is true that you should do something you love, but the fact is that you will always hit rough patches. Hard work can lead to procrastination and doubt, and that’s where grit comes in. With determination and resolve, you can motivate yourself to keep working toward your goals and persevere through the toughest of times.

Give yourself a challenge and practice your grit. What we accomplish in the marathon of life depends tremendously on our grit - our passion and perseverance for long-term goals. An obsession with talent distracts us from that simple truth. On your own, you can cultivate your own grit from the inside out. You can cultivate interests, develop a habit of daily practice and work on a purpose beyond yourself. You can also grow your grit “from the outside in.” Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors, friends - developing your personal grit depends critically on other people.

To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.

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